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The Best of W4: To Face Unafraid

This post was first published just over four years ago, and I thought it was worth bringing back. Some of you may not have been reading W4 in 2007.

I'm sure all of you are already sick of "Winter Wonderland."

Oddly, I'm not. At least not if I can listen to Bing Crosby sing it instead of somebody less talented. I notice this year, as every year now, one particular line of that song: "Later on we'll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face unafraid the plans that we made walkin' in a winter wonderland."

Isn't that at least a little bit striking? Why do those plans require "facing unafraid"? Well, they're going to get married. (That's the bit about the snowman and Parson Brown.)

I once tried rather awkwardly, and probably not very convincingly, to explain to an unmarried friend that getting married and, especially, having children, are part of growing up. He was rather offended. He took me to be implying that single people cannot be grown up, which wasn't what I meant.

But getting married and having children are the usual and, relatively speaking, easy ways in which God stretches us. Having a family is leaving oneself open to all manner of pain, grief, and fear, most of which I have thus far been spared, having been given an embarrassingly easy road to tread. But if singleness and loneliness have their own griefs and fears--as they most certainly do--so do marriage and children. In particular, there are the fears for others, the involvement with others, and the sense of responsibility and sometimes of helplessness. Suffering oneself is one thing. Watching one's children or one's beloved spouse suffer or even die must be something else again, and in some ways far worse.

How many young men and nowadays even some young women would rather not even start talking about Parson Brown, much less face that particular plan unafraid? As for children...there's a reason why having children is sometimes called "giving hostages to fortune." As a risk-averse person myself, I'm not just exactly over-fond of being at the mercy of fortune for myself and my loved ones.

So don't knock "Winter Wonderland." Try instead to imagine somebody nowadays writing a song that light, fun, and singable with a zinger line like that right smack in the middle of it.

Comments (6)

Giving your friend the benefi of the doubt, we could assume that he has never studied logic formally and is the sort of person who is so dim-witted that he thinks "all crows are black" implies "all black birds are crows." I think it is more likely, though, that he has a controlling personality and wants to manipulate you in a passive-aggressive manner to make you think his way, probably as a result of his own repressed feelings of guilt in regard to his sexual pecadillos.

If I were you I would be tempted to give him a lesson in logic and let him know that I consider sexual sins to be the least of sins. Of course I wouldn't actually do those things but I would be tempted.

Marriage and children, or even children out-of-wedlock, will make you grow up fast, unless there is something horribly wrong with you. Remaining single will allow you to delay growing up as long as you like, even indefinitely. And what's wrong with that? Single people can be quite childlike without hurting anybody. The idiosyncracies of these characters bring us joy and laughter and make life more interesting.

Remaining single will allow you to delay growing up as long as you like, even indefinitely.

That's the implication that my friend, those years ago, no doubt found insulting, though I didn't mean it to be.

Certainly there are cases of people who grow up in different ways. I would never want to say that a priest who has taken a vow of celibacy, never been married, and never had any children cannot be mature. Or, on the other hand, some people are forced to mature through extraordinary suffering without ever marrying and/or having children. Each person's situation is unique.

What I think my friend found difficult to agree to was the implication that _most_ human beings, or even just most American human beings, who have never gotten married and never had children have missed an important growing experience and have an aspect of their personalities that has not matured. Selfishness and self-centeredness, for example, are easier to hang onto under a variety of single-person circumstances. That sort of statistical statement, with the tacit implication that this was true of him, was something he found annoying, however nicely worded.

A very nice post. I'd say it even more strongly, in a way that would surely insult your single friend. Generally (I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions) you can't grow up without some kind of freely chosen slavery, i.e., self-sacrifice. Slavery, in the sense that you can't get out of it even at those times that you wish you could, and also in the sense that whoever you're sacrificing for is more important and more valuable than you. That includes parenthood and, I assume, things like Catholic and other celibate priesthoods. It doesn't include marriage itself, usually.

I've also been lucky so far in having a fortunate life (or is that unlucky?), but I think even the little, mundane sacrifices are enough. The myriad little things like staying up all night with a sick child, for instance, the kind of thing that all parents know.

None of this is original or especially insightful, of course, even if true. I think that Henry James' father, of all people, a theologian, said something like that only more extreme ("vastation"). Anyway, I think it would be very hard for most people today to grow up without having children of their own.

I wish I had been reading W4 back then, as this would've been a particularly touching post. 2007 was the year my first child was born AND the year my mother died. Growing up indeed.

It doesn't include marriage itself, usually.

I don't think any happily married person would want to use the word "slavery" for marriage, certainly not as an essential part of it. But all that one reads about young men who want to avoid commitment surely confirms the idea that there is _some_ kind of sacrifice normally involved in marriage. A sacrifice of always getting one's own way, if nothing else. My impression is that men feel this more keenly than women, perhaps especially now when wifehood has been made so much easier, both materially and in other ways, than it used to be.

Yeah, this makes me think of a blog I read once by a rather nasty and bitter young woman about her experience at a Sovereign Grace church. She made a big song and dance about one incident that she thought of as this enormous red flag, where the pastor said something like "Nothing humbles you and brings you close to God like being a parent." Because this woman and her husband were infertile, they thought this was just horrifyingly tactless and got this big deer-in-the-headlights feeling. Then the final straw for them was when the pastor asked the congregation to break into groups and pray for parents. Then, the woman wrote theatrically, they just bolted out of their seats and "ran." How DARE the pastor say such a thing?

The Elephant

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